Baltimore in Under 36 Hours
Dubbed “Smalltimore” By Locals, New York Families Now Consider Maryland’s Big City A Fun Spot For Weekend Getaways
My family’s recent trip to Baltimore was an abbreviated one. One of those get-up-and-drive-on-Saturday-morning-and-comeback-on-Sunday-afternoon kinds of adventures—so we had a lot to pack into just 36 hours.
First stop: Little Italy—a neighborhood chockablock with restaurants along its narrow, row house-lined streets—for lunch. We took a table at Amicci’s, a casual eatery serving up classic Italian dishes and offering a $4.95 children’s menu (quite the steal!).
Their signature dish is the pane rotundo, a bread bowl brimming with creamy shrimp scampi. For dessert, we ducked across the street to Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry Shop and stocked up on their infamous cannoli and an assortment of butter cookies.
Content and full (much like that caloric bread bowl) and running a few hours behind schedule—a consistent theme in my family’s life—we opted to spend the rest of our post-lunch afternoon at the Port Discovery Children’s Museum.
Housed in a high-ceilinged, 80,000-square-foot former fish market, Port Discovery boasts three floors of exhibits, many designed by Walt Disney Company Imagineers. It wouldn’t have been my first choice of attractions, if only because I would have preferred something more uniquely Baltimorean, like the Baltimore Museum of Industry. Port Discovery, however, was a wonderful place to wile away an entire afternoon with my three children, who range in age from two to seven years old. We spent nearly three hours there and the kids were fully engaged. Not to mention, virtually whine-free the entire time.
Jack, my two-and-a-half-year-old, was mesmerized by the exhibit inspired by Scholastic Entertainment’s Clifford the Big Red Dog on PBS Kids.
He could have spent the entire day loading oversized foam bones onto a conveyor belt that spilled its contents into a life-sized blue dog bowl for the massive mutt. My other two kids—Charlie, seven, and Vivi, five—preferred climbing up, crawling in, jumping on and sliding down KidWorks, a three-story, up-only “urban treehouse” with entrances and exits on all levels. But all three of my mini mes were inextricably drawn to the Wonders Of Water (WOW!), complete with window squeegees, water chimes and life-sized bubble hoops. They eschewed the waterproof Land’s End slickers and candy-hued Crocs in favor of getting completely soaked, a fact which the available full-body dryers did little to mitigate. Needless to say, Saturday came to a sopping end.
On Sunday, we started off at Miss Shirley’s, a Southern-inspired restaurant best known for its decadent breakfast dishes like cinnamon Danish pancakes drizzled with cream cheese icing and coconut cream-stuffed French toast. Although absent of a separate children’s menu, the restaurant’s vibe was decidedly kid-friendly and the huge portions likened to sharing.
Afterwards, we headed to the National Aquarium, a true must-see for anyone visiting Baltimore. I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes, a 65,400-square-foot immersion exhibit filled with over 150 plants and 1,800 animals indigenous to Australia, like shield shrimp, barramundi and laughing kookaburra. My troupe climbed to the glass-encased tropical rainforest at the very top of the building, then wound our way down through the rest of the aquarium. Boasting a smart design, it is built in such a way that it feels as if you are descending deeper and deeper into the ocean and swimming with the sharks, rays, sea turtles and schools of fish rather than just peering at them from the other side of a tank. Luckily, while Sunday showed a similar aquatic theme, we didn’t end up drenched this time around.
When the weather perks up, we hope to return to Baltimore again. Perhaps we’ll spend our time hopping from neighborhood to neighborhood via water taxi, take in an Orioles Game at Camden Yards, and sit outside and eat Maryland blue crabs. All in record time once more.
For more Spring Break travel ideas, visit newyorkfamily.com.